10 Great Contemporary Works of Political Art

Some artists aren’t moved by the beauty around them, their patrons’ sponsorship, or some deep need for catharsis. Some artists operate on a different wavelength, channeling the injustices, imbalances, and harsh realities of their daily lives or the lives of those in need to create their art. That’s not to say these artists are entirely motivated by altruism. Suppose they get self-satisfaction from sticking it to the man, from pointing to the bad guys with a big giant neon sign, from being badasses themselves. Nonetheless, kudos. In the wake of the freshly concluded presidential debates, here are a few recent art projects made with a political message in mind. From the Yes Men to Ai Weiwei to the Guerrilla Girls — these artists employ more tools than one can pick up at the neighborhood art store. Check out their culture-jamming, intervention-throwing, order-disrupting, and trouble-making ways, and see if it inspires you to stand for something.

Joshua Allen Harris’ Inflatable Polar Bears

Fighting apathy with beauty, urban intervention artist Joshua Allen Harris constructed a captivating, DIY connection between our metropolitan landscape and the fates of polar bears. These sculptures appear almost alive. As a train passes beneath the NYC subway grates, a series of bags inflate in the gust, pumping themselves full to reveal a white, rippling bear, sometimes two, sometimes a mother and a cub. As the train passes, they slump deathlike, crumpling to the ground only to be revived with another passing train. “Ride, Don’t Drive,” this PSA for the Environmental Defense Fund calls out at the end of this clip. The metaphor couldn’t be simpler.